There was a time when betting on the NFL Divisional Round was a piece of cake: Just add the top two seeds from each conference to your NFL picks. But that old script has been flipped over the past decade or so.
Jason’s 2014-15 postseason record: 1-1 ATS, 0-1-1 Totals
If you’re an NFL team trying to win a Super Bowl, by all means, you want to grab one of the top two seeds in your conference. That way, you only have to play three postseason games instead of four, which significantly increases your chances of winning the title. But if you’re making football picks? Not so much. Teams who had the bye during Wild Card Weekend are 17-27 ATS in the Divisional Round dating back to 2003.
It’s a shame. This used to be a solid bet on the higher seed – casual bettors just didn’t appreciate how valuable a week of rest was at this stage of the season. But now they overvalue the bye week, and since they already overvalue favorites, this makes the Divisional Round a great opportunity to target the underdogs on the NFL odds board. Let’s see what Sunday’s slate has to offer.
Dallas vs. Green Bay (1:05 p.m. ET, FOX)
If it weren’t for the bye-week dynamic, you might run directly into the arms of the Packers (12-4 SU, 9-6-1 ATS). They have the highest-rated offense of the remaining eight playoff teams, while the Cowboys (13-4 SU, 10-7 ATS) have the lowest-rated defense. On top of that, Sunday’s matchup takes place at Lambeau Field, where it’s frickin’ freezing right now. The game-time forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s unfamiliar territory for the Cowboys.
But then you have the football odds. Dallas opened as a 6.5-point road dog before edging back to +6 under some early sharp action; our expanded consensus reports at press time show over 70 percent of the action falling on the Cowboys, despite 56 percent of bettors preferring Green Bay. The average bet size on Dallas is a hefty $281, over three times that of Green Bay at $91. The sharps know about the dangers of the first-round bye.
As for the Packers, their defense isn’t particularly special, and QB Aaron Rodgers is less than 100 percent after straining his left calf in Week 17 against the Detroit Lions. He hasn’t practiced since then, and he may or may not practice on Thursday, either. If Rodgers is as gimpy on Sunday as he was when he returned to finish that Lions game, Green Bay could be one-and-done this postseason.
Free NFL Pick: Take the Cowboys and the UNDER
Indianapolis vs. Denver (4:40 p.m. ET, FOX)
Again, you might be tempted to take the Broncos here if you didn’t know what the NFL odds were. Denver (12-4 SU, 8-8 ATS) has the better offense and the better defense, while the Colts (12-5 SU, 11-5-1 ATS) are about to leave their climate-controlled home to play outdoors in January. Sunday’s Mile High forecast: partly cloudy, 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
But thanks to the betting public overdoing it on the higher seeds, the Broncos are 7-point home favorites for Sunday’s matchup. That would have created a push in Week 1 when Denver beat Indianapolis 31-24 as an 8-point chalk, back when Peyton Manning was fresh as a daisy. Now he’s trying to shake off a thigh injury he suffered three weeks ago against the San Diego Chargers. At least he’s practicing, though.
And who really has the weather advantage in this matchup, anyway? Manning doesn’t have a good history in cold-weather games; according to David Solar at BetLabs, he’s 7-12 ATS when the temperature dips below 40 degrees. It might not get that cold on Sunday, but it might. Let’s not split hairs here – it’s just not a good situation for chalkeaters placing NFL picks.
Free NFL Pick: Take the Colts and the UNDER at BookMaker